College education not the only way

August 01, 2010|By HEATHER LOWERY
  • Bernie Bussard leads a class Friday at Associated Builders and Contractors Inc.-Cumberland Valley Chapter, for students interested in learning about heating and air conditioning.
Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

o Online degrees gaining acceptance

o Majority of '09 Washington County grads planned more education

Education experts agree that high school graduates who further their education have a brighter employment future than those who don't. But a traditional college is not the only option.

Trade schools and other institutions provide a range of training and experience that can help students advance in the careers of their choice, educators say.

For instance, in Washington County:

o Washington County Technical High School offers 19 programs to incoming high school juniors.

o Award Beauty School in Hagerstown offers cosmetology and nail-technician programs.

o Associated Builders and Contractors Inc.-Cumberland Valley Chapter, offers training in carpentry, electrical, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) and plumbing.

Despite the training received at Washington County Technical High School, students are encouraged to further their education, said Principal Jeffrey Stouffer.


In some cases, though, students are poised to obtain jobs, he said.

"We always encourage higher education, but it depends on what they (the students) get into," Stouffer said. "When they are ready to graduate, we do send out a survey, and 64 (percent) to 68 percent report that they plan to go on to higher education. That could be college or a trade school."

In some trades, students are prepared to get jobs right out of school, he said.

"For cosmetology, we give them their full licensing here," Stouffer said. "If you spend your time here in the cosmetology program, you get your hours and then you go on to take the state board test. If you pass, you are fully certified and it's a huge saving."

At Tech High, which Stouffer noted had a 100 percent graduation rate in 2009 and no dropouts for 2 1/2 years, education goes beyond training in a trade.

"We have a lot that we are offering," Stouffer said. "We have the students for two straight years. They come in and get their academics, they are able to play all the sports at their home school, and it really works."

"We are one of three high schools in the nation to have top modeling programs for biomedical science and pre-engineering. And we are expanding. We have new programs coming in," Stouffer said.

"We will probably have 480 to 500 students this year, which is higher than ever," he said.

Tech High offers AP (Advanced Placement) classes, which can result in college credits. Tech High also works with Hagerstown Community College to offer the Essence Program, in which students take courses for college credit. Honors classes also are available for those who qualify at the high school.

Other options

o Award Beauty School and Associated Builders and Contractors Inc.-Cumberland Valley Chapter offer services in Washington County for students who want to continue developing their skills, and those who want to learn trades, but did not have the opportunity to do so in high school.

"We offer cosmetology and nail-technician programs. It is a certificate diploma," said Mary Ellen Sommerfeld, school director for Award Beauty School.

Award Beauty School is accredited by the National Accrediting Commission of Cosmetology Arts and Science (NACCAS). The school instructs students and provides them with the knowledge to take the Maryland state boards in theory and practical exams, Sommerfeld said.

Anyone may attend Award Beauty School. Financial aid is available for those who qualify.

o Associated Builders and Contractors-Cumberland Valley Chapter, accredited by the University of Florida, offers training in carpentry, plumbing, HVAC and electrical.

"We offer everything from entry level all the way up to journeyman, and to master's level training," said Bob Simmers, education director at ABC.

Daytime and evening classes are offered. Daytime classes are accelerated programs, in which students attend school for 20 hours a week for nine weeks, which accounts for one year of training.

Evening classes are offered two nights a week from September to April. The majority of students enrolled in the evening classes are already employed by contractors, but other students also are enrolled.

"About 50 percent of the education is in the classroom and 50 percent is hands-on training in a shop that is fully equipped, and they (students) are tested in both areas," Simmers said.

ABC offers payment plans and has a limited number of scholarships available, Simmers said.

The economy is looking up for employees of the trades, according to Simmers.

"The Department of Labor projects that over the next eight years, employment for people in the trades will increase by 14 percent, except for HVAC, which is projected to increase by 28 percent, and that's because of the demand for energy-efficiency and green energy," he said.

There are other advantages to completing a degree through ABC, he said.

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